Everyone’s favourite addictive video platform TikTok could soon be banned for good if America has its way, but why is one of Earth’s most increasingly backward countries seeking the permanent removal of a single phone app?
Chief executive of TikTok Shou Zi Chew attended a congressional hearing on Thursday regarding the potential banning of the clock app.
As always with these American hearings, it was a bunch of near-extinct, mostly Republican corpses pulled up from the depths of Tartarus asking all of the questions, despite the fact they wouldn’t know how to find the flashlight setting on their phone to save their lives.
These congressional hearing formats are such a joke.
Nothing new comes out, no solutions come, and we make no progress. Just a chance for politicians to grandstand. It’s reality TV, not a meeting that inspires or leads to change.
— Jack Appleby (@jappleby) March 23, 2023
Half of the “gotcha” questions fired at Chew were undermined by a lack of basic tech knowledge, while others held TikTok accountable for very real problems the app has created but doesn’t quite have solutions for.
So, let’s get into the basics of this congressional hearing. Allow me to explain in smooth brain terms whether or not TikTok is doomed to visit Vine in Hell, where all fun apps go to spend the rest of their days.
Why is America trying to ban TikTok?
To put it bluntly, the Biden presidency is looking to take tough action on China, and TikTok is one of the many ways it can do that.
“Data security” is of minimal concern to America, despite the fact those two words are used a lot when people talk about the app. If data security was a real worry, the country would be hounding down Meta, Google and one of the thousands of other platforms that collect data and sell it.
The main concern with TikTok is that its parent company, ByteDance, is based in China. The worry for Americans is that at any moment a Chinese body could request the information of one of TikTok’s 150 million active users in the US.
Obviously, the US isn’t too concerned if they’re the ones hoarding our data and using it in any way they please.
As I said, this is more about China as an entity than our “precious data” being “breached” or one of the many other buzzwords that get thrown around in TikTok convos.
“Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country,” said Chew in the congressional hearing.
According to him, TikTok is headquartered in Singapore and Los Angeles and is not even available in mainland China.
This is the most political ill ever get, im not an expert so take this with a grain of salt. And keep it classy in the comments #carterpcs #tiktok
So ultimately, Biden would like ByteDance to sell TikTok to a US company and China would very much like America to mind its business and not force the sale of one of its most successful products.
The two countries are playing tug of war and TikTok is the rope.
What’s happening at the
clown congressional hearing?
Footage from Thursday’s hearing emerged on (get ready for it) TikTok, and showcased a wild display of self-aggrandising Republicans talking for the sake of it, without really letting Chew speak up for himself.
It sucks because this is a good opportunity for American politicians to voice genuine safety concerns around one of the biggest apps on the planet. Alas, they aren’t exactly known for their intellectual takedowns (excluding Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of course).
Here’s a vid in which politicians accused TikTok of aiding Mexican drug cartels and recruiting American citizens into human trafficking rings. Yeah.
Congress and the Biden administration are looking to ban TikTok… by accusing the app of dr*g tr*fficking. #tiktok #congress #america #app #socialmedia #news #mexico
And here’s one in which a politician asks a wild question to Chew, allows him two seconds to answer and then immediately cuts him off to finish her (probably) rehearsed sentiment about how TikTok is bad.
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is testifying before Congress in defense of the popular social media app as momentum grows on Capitol Hill to outright ban the app over national security concerns. #tiktok #tiktokban #katcammack #shouchew
Here’s a vid in which a politician asks how TikTok can access a user’s Wi-Fi. Yes. I am so serious right now.
‘Mr. Chew, does TikTok access the home WiFi network?’ We’re… not entirely sure… if Rep. Richard Hudson knows how TikTok OR WiFi works…? #tiktok #wifi #politics #technews
And finally, my personal favourite is a video in which a politician accuses TikTok of using our front cameras to see if our pupils dilate at certain content so it can push that content to us even more.
It’s a wild claim, but not any worse than the politician asking how TikTok can accurately learn how old a user is. My guy, we put our ages in when we sign up for the app, like pretty much every social media platform.
They are mind numblingly stupid #carterpcs #tiktok #congress
When Chew finally had a chance to speak and defend himself, he roasted the fact that America also has social companies which misuse data and sell it. Drag them.
Congress asked TikTok’s CEO if he’d be willing to divest from Chinese ownership.
His incredibly fair, savage answer?
“American social companies don’t have a good track record with data privacy and user security. I mean, look at Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.” pic.twitter.com/cVP9dph5wL
— Jack Appleby (@jappleby) March 23, 2023
Instead of being personal lapdogs for Meta, congress and the Biden administration should enact strict data privacy laws prohibiting the collection and sale of this data in the first place. Then it won’t matter who owns TikTok.
— Alejandra Caraballo (@Esqueer_) March 23, 2023
If America was genuinely concerned by data privacy it would just establish impenetrable laws around sale and collection. However, it won’t, because that would just shoot the country in the foot.
What the fuck is Project Texas?
My final point of the day: what is “Project Texas”?
If you watch any of the congressional hearing videos, chances are this project will come up.
Essentially it’s a promise by TikTok to make sure American data from TikTok exists solely in America and is overseen by Americans only. It also a promise to delete all US data backed up on servers outside of the country.
Not a bad promise if the misuse of “sensitive data” by foreign bodies is your concern.
I saw Project Texas trending and just assumed it was some plan to destroy women, people of color, gays and immigrants. That’s the impression Texas has left on me
— Tricia Nixx I Resist 🌊 (@P_Nixx) March 23, 2023
To avoid a ban, TikTok has been trying to sell officials on a $1.5-billion plan called Project Texas, which routes all U.S. user data to domestic servers owned and maintained by Oracle.
So I guess we’re moving towards data localization after all? 🧐
— Lemonhead 🍋 (@Limonadaman) March 23, 2023
American Republicans at the congressional hearing didn’t seem too sold on the idea, however.
Most of the complaints were around the name having the word “Texas” in it, because of course they were.
Texas stands for freedom and transparency, and we don’t want Tik Tok’s project. pic.twitter.com/8MjEByjCuv
— Rep. August Pfluger (@RepPfluger) March 23, 2023
I guess some American dinosaurs just really want TikTok banned for good without understanding why.
Banning a popular app wouldn’t be unusual in a country that’s banning drag queens and reinstating racist laws, however.
Backwards we go!